The global car industry faces a big challenge to develop engines that are both efficient and environmentally friendly. But a family-owned Austrian company is hoping to find an answer through research into new technologies like hydrogen fuel cells and nanocomposites.
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Backed by a €30 million loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), with financial backing from the European Union, Graz-based AVL is developing a broad range of powertrains that aim to cut emissions. The loan will enable AVL to step up its research in hybrid systems, combustion and diesel engines, as well as transmission systems, electric drives, batteries, and simulation software. The new technologies contribute to Europe’s targets for higher energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions, thus reducing the impact of transport on climate change.
The resulting boosting in air quality should also improve the quality of life for European citizens. At the same time, the project could go some way to helping the car industry, by giving a new technological edge to one of Europe’s most important economic sectors.
Originally founded in 1948, AVL provides research and development support to a wide range of carmakers. It has already earned a reputation for producing fuel-saving technologies for powertrain systems, the group of components that generates power, including the transmission, drive shafts, differentials and the engine itself.
As powertrain components become increasingly complex, they need further technological refining to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Christoph Kuhn, the EIB’s Head of new products in RDI financing, says AVL is particularly suited for research in this area as it already develops entire powertrains and powertrain components for combustion and electric/hybrid engines, as well as new engine concepts and designs for series production.
“The project aims at improving AVL’s innovation capacity, thereby impacting positively on its international competitiveness,” says Kuhn. “The loan will help AVL step up its efforts to develop more economical and efficient low-emission vehicle powertrains,” adds Kuhn.
Kuhn also points to AVL’s long established research links with other companies, agencies and universities. Indeed, thanks to the technology intensity of its operations, AVL collaborates widely with national and European partners, including academia, and can draw on a wide network of associates to support the research. “The project will contribute to Europe’s knowledge based economy and industrial competitiveness in the sector of sustainable transport,” Kuhn says.
The loan was granted through the Risk Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), an initiative jointly supported by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help finance research, development and innovation projects.
Although carmakers are eventually expected to be responsible for the production and the market introduction of fuel cell cars, AVL will facilitate the development of hydrogen fuel cells and other related technologies, Kuhn says. He also says that AVL will help improve the efficiency of conventional combustion engines, which still have great development potential and will continue to play an important role in the years to come.
And he adds that there are exciting opportunities with the production of electric powertrains, a potentially revolutionary technology that will require new solutions in the field of automotive electronics. “Electric powertrains are an area that opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” Kuhn says.